Following two cases of pertussis (Whooping Cough) in Antrim County earlier this year, Elk Rapids Schools, along with the Health Department, conducted a review of immunization records for Elk Rapids students, finding a fair number whose immunizations were not up-to-date. Pertussis is a vaccine-preventable illness.
“Many parents strive to keep their children’s immunizations up-to-date, but it can be difficult as kids grow older and don’t visit their doctor as often as they did when they were younger,” said Jon Hoover, Elk Rapids Superintendent.
According to Suzette Daly, the public health nurse and Health Department supervisor responsible for immunization control for Antrim, Charlevoix, Emmet, and Otsego counties, frequent changes to the immunization schedule complicate matters. “Even the best-intentioned parents can fall behind in their children’s immunizations,” she said. “We offered the immunization clinic right on the Elk Rapids campus to make it convenient for busy parents.”
“Summer time is a good time for parents to double check their children’s immunization records. If they need an immunization, parents have plenty of time before school starts to get their kids in to the doctor or health department,” said Daly.
Most parents know their children need immunizations to start school but do not realize immunizations are needed before students start sixth grade. According to the Michigan Department of Public Health, sixth graders currently need four doses of diphtheria and tetanus or three doses of diphtheria and tetanus (Td) vaccine if started after age seven; three doses of polio vaccine, two doses of measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccine, and three doses of Hepatitis B vaccine. If sixth graders have not had chicken pox, they also need a dose of Varicella vaccine.
The Health Department offers immunization appointments on an ongoing basis. “Our public health nurses can review your child’s immunization record on the statewide immunization database and tell you right away if he or she needs any shots,” said Daly. Summer is an especially good time to get kids caught up before students go back to school in the fall, she said. “We know some parents have concerns about immunizations,” Daly said. “We encourage questions. We can provide parents with credible resources like the American Academy of Pediatrics, Immunization Action Coalition, U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) & Prevention, and others if they want to research immunization safety. There is a lot of misinformation about vaccines.”
The Health Department of Northwest Michigan is mandated by the Michigan Public Health Code to promote wellness, prevent disease, provide quality healthcare, address health problems of vulnerable populations, and protect the environment for the residents and visitors of Antrim, Charlevoix, Emmet, and Otsego counties. For additional information, or to schedule an immunization appointment, call 800-432-4121.